One young person dies every month in Northern Ireland from an undiagnosed heart condition, according to the British Heart Foundation NI.
These people are unaware that they are at risk before their sudden death. Undetected heart conditions can be deadly and devastate families, often by taking away loved ones without warning.
Northern Ireland’s leading heart research charity estimates that around 17,500 people in Northern Ireland are living with a faulty gene that puts them at high risk of a heart attack at a young age or sudden death. In addition to these thousands there are more people at risk of dying prematurely because of other non-genetic heart defects including abnormal heart rhythms.
Hilary Niblock from Lisburn lost her son Kris on 18 June 2014 just days before his 21st birthday. The youngest in the family of three children loved cars and was outside their home working on a friend’s car when he suddenly collapsed.
Hilary said: “I had picked Kris up from his job in Tesco. It was a lovely evening so we were getting ready to have a barbecue and Kris was out working on his friend’s car. His friend came running in and said Kris is lying at the side of the car. We thought maybe he’s been electrocuted. The ambulance came and rushed him to Lagan Valley Hospital.
“When he got there they must have worked on him for two to three hours but there was nothing more they could do. Nothing can prepare you hearing that. I just kept thinking this can’t be happening.”
The Niblock family were all tested for an inherited heart condition but later discovered Kris’s death was due to an electrical fault in his heart.
“I know now there was nothing we could have done but you’re tortured by thoughts of what if? What if we had known? Kris was my youngest and was the wee boy I had always wanted. I always felt he was someone special. Everyone who knew him talks about his big smile. He was so quiet and unassuming and would have done anything for anyone.
“I don’t want any family to go through what we’ve gone through. More research is needed so no family has to suffer the loss of their child so unexpectedly.